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Yemeni Farm Worker Hero

Arab American Heritage profile_ see below في عام 1973 قتل الشهيد اليمني ناجي ضيف الله شهيد الحقوق المدنية الأول في امريكا هو أحد الشخصيات الأسطورية المنسيه التي تقف في المقدمة. قد لا يظهر اسمه في كتب التاريخ ولكن كان له تأثير دائم على النسيج الاجتماعي والسياسي للمجتمع الأمريكي. كان ناجي ولا يزال أيقونة ورمز لا يمكن نسيانه ومن هذه الصفحة ستبدأ Man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice

Nagi Daifallah is one legendary figure that stands at the forefront. His name may not appear in history books but Daifallah has had a lasting impact on the social and political fabric of American society. His story inspired many to the extent that in 2013, an Orange County Democratic Group introduced the Social Justice Award in his name. So who exactly was Daifullah and what is he really known for? Daifallah’s story has all the trappings of tragedies related to the marginalization of immigrants and the often gory struggle of activism in communities of color. Nagi Mohsin Daifullah, a young farm worker from Yemen who moved to California and went on to become one of the organizers of the infamous 1973 grape strike in California. Nagi had come to the United States from Yemen to seek a better life and to support his family back home. Despite a meager education in Yemen, upon arriving in the U.S., He learned both English and Spanish, served as a translator, and reached out to Arabic-speaking and Spanish-speaking farmworkers to join the strike.

The 1970 strike that had made headlines across the country wasn’t over just yet. In 1973, 30 farms, which were growing 85% of the area’s grapes, did not renew their contracts and instead signed contracts with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The contracts claimed Chavez, “weren’t contracts, they were marriage licenses. Tomorrow you will see the growers and the Teamsters skipping hand in hand into fields on their honeymoon.”The new agreements, often referred to as ‘sweetheart deals,’ lowered workers’ hourly wages, reduced the rights of workers, and gave power back to the farmers. Cesar led the United Farm Workers, a new organization that united the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee with the National Farm Workers, to strike again.

However, since the Delano Grape Strike from 1965-1970 had made national headlines and appeared to be a great victory, the Grape and Lettuce Boycott of 1973 failed to pick up the attention and support from the press and the American people. As workers from Lamont to Fresno picketed the deal with the Teamsters, police arrested, beat, and maced hundreds of strikers, including priests, nuns, and young workers. The violence and brutality continued and resulted in the death of Yemeni migrant Nagi Daifallah.

I like many of you, have never heard the name Nagi Daifullah before. Not growing up. Not in school. Not in my history books. Never. Yet his story is distinctly American as it reflects our history of immigrants who came to this country with few profitable skills but have had a lasting impact on the social and political fabric of American society. As a Yemeni immigrant who was a leader in the United Farm Workers (UFW), Nagi was fighting in solidarity with laborers from all backgrounds and nationalities until he died from injuries inflicted by a Kern County deputy sheriff. Nagi was revered for his leadership in the Arab worker community, activism in union issues, and his ability to translate for UFW organizers. Nagi was killed advocating for the rights of UFW picketers, who were routinely harassed and arrested during the grape strike of 1973.

Nagi, one of many farm workers protesting the unfounded arrest of a fellow worker, was singled out by a deputy sheriff, leading to a foot chase. One forceful blow to the head with the sheriff’s 5-cell, metal flashlight severed Nagi’s spinal cord from the base of his skull and sent him to his knees. Unconscious and with a severe head injury, the police dragged Nagi’s body by his wrists to the gutter, head “dangling and bouncing on the pavement” for sixty feet. The image of Nagi’s 5-foot, 100-pound body being dragged and left in a gutter hauntingly resonates with accounts of other victims of police aggression, like Tamir Rice, who was left alone for four full minutes before police provided any first aid. In both cases, police handcuffed or arrested individuals who rushed forward to help their injured loved ones.

Nagi’s story connects a history of the marginalization of immigrants and his resulting activism with present struggles and activism in communities of color to remind us of the work still to be done. When we are confronted with anti-immigrant rhetoric, we must remember our roots, remember Nagi’s story, and speak up for welcoming immigration policies so that others may have the same opportunity. If we can do that, we will all benefit. Nagi’s sacrifice is proof. ( Annie Riley ) 1975, two years after the death of Nagi Daifallah, the state of California passed the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, in which farm workers were finally given collective bargaining rights. Cesar Chavez himself marched in silence alongside Nagi’s casket in solidarity against the violence and systemic oppression perpetuated by agribusiness. Chavez spoke very highly of Nagi who was an organizer for the union and was deemed a martyr for the movement. We don’t know how God chooses martyrs. We do know that they give us the most precious gift they possess — their very lives.

From the Facebook site Cultural Heritage of Yemen

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